Caravanning, it seems is a hobby that’s often passed down through the generations. Your parents done it, as a child you went with them and as an adult you carried on with it. I would think MOST of my caravanning pals fall into this category. There are exceptions of course – an I’m one of em.
My family never caravanned – or at least toured with one anyway. Sometimes a holiday might be in a static on the North Norfolk coast, and a couple of times in the Lake District. Most holidays – and we were fortunate to have one most years – were at holiday camps or B & B’s
As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot – as far afield as Australia and New Zealand, hopping between motels. The USA got a look in too and we got into cruising as well, being fortunate to travel on such iconic ships as the QE2 and the old SS France.
When my partner and I moved down south we took on a courier franchise – mainly because I couldn’t get a job – and as the round developed and income grew a patterned emerged. After the Christmas rush we’d head off to the Canaries at the end of January for a week for some winter sun. We’d take a week in June when things were at the quietest and then again in October before the build up to Christmas.
Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point – honest!
In June of 2011 we stayed in an apartment owned by friends of friends down in Calahonda in southern Spain. Having run a business for a number of years they had emigrated to Spain to enjoy their retirement. A notion that was, at the time, was stirring in the back of our minds too. It turned out that they were caravanners and spent six months touring Spain in their ‘van deciding where they wanted to settle. What a good idea. We’d also harboured vague thoughts of touring Europe – not just for a week or so but properly – and caravanning provided a much more affordable way to do it.
The Christmas of 2011 saw us have a busiest period ever on the parcels, but the company that provided the work were becoming impossible to deal with. We both hated the work and eventually along came the straw that broke the camel’s back and we jacked it in. On what - to date - was our last trip to the Canaries, we decided to sell the bungalow and downsize to release a load of cash, buy a caravan and go off into Europe.
A very knowledgeable friend took us around several dealers to give us an idea what was out there and what we could get for our money. We weren’t looking at new because we didn’t want to risk splashing a lot of money on something we might not like. That and my natural aversion to spending money on anything other than essentials. Like real ale. It was a month later after viewing dozens of ‘vans that we finally settled on one – a 2 berth Coachman Pastiche from 2004. The dealers couldn’t have been more helpful and set us up with everything we’d need as beginners.
Our first trip was only a short distance away – to London! As you do with a caravan. Our friends were with us in their ‘van and we followed them up the A23 rather nervously, arriving eventually at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Crystal Palace. We had a great few days there and it couldn’t have gone better, but then it was time to head out on our own. To make sure we could cope with living in the ‘van for such a long time we embarked on a three month tour of the British Isles just a couple of weeks later. It didn’t start well – I broke the jockey wheel handle before we even left – and the weather for a lot of that trip was appalling. But here’s the thing – it didn’t put us off – we loved it. We came home in July and shortly after the bungalow went on the market.
And stayed there. Come January funds were running low and we needed an income. Luckily a friend was Transport manager at one of the local private schools. Trev started first then I followed shortly after – driving minibuses on the school bus runs. Early starts and late finishes – but time in-between and lots of holidays. The house finally sold that summer and we bought a flat. To date we’ve been away in the ‘van for just about every school holiday. Whilst most have been in the UK we’ve utilised the long summer break to travel Ireland and make our first foray onto the continent into France. The holidays do mean that we do get away a lot and whilst we haven’t totally abandoned the idea of an extended trip to Europe it seems silly to give up work again when we have so much time anyway.
And that, is how we got into caravanning!